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Pork Barbecue Competition Seeks Amateur Iowa Grillers

If backyard barbecuing is your thing, prove it! Amateur Iowa grillers are invited to test their skills and recipes against other home chefs during the Backyard BBQ Competition, part of BBQ & Brew at the Ballpark this summer in Des Moines.

Registration is open for teams to compete at the second-annual BBQ & Brew, a charitable event presented by the Iowa Pork Producers Association (IPPA) and Iowa Cubs — the Minor League Baseball team in Des Moines. Open to the public, BBQ & Brew is set for Saturday, June 22, and will feature samples of Iowa pork and Iowa-brewed beers, expert cooking demonstrations, as well as local musicians. All proceeds benefit food pantries around the state.

“We take great pride in promoting delicious Iowa pork, and this is a fun chance for barbecue enthusiasts to step up to the plate, show us what they’ve got, and potentially walk away with bragging rights and a trophy,” said Matt Gent, IPPA president and a pig farmer from Wellman.

The all-pork Backyard BBQ Competition offers nearly 20 cash awards, totaling more than $10,000. The main contest consists of three categories — pork loin, pork butt, and St. Louis-style ribs — and six certified judges will score each entry based on appearance, taste, and tenderness. Those who compete in all three pork categories are eligible to win $1,500 for Grand Champion, the highest overall combined score, or $1,000 for Reserve Champion, the second-highest score.

Prizes for the top five in each category (loin, butt, and ribs):

  • First — $1,000
  • Second — $600
  • Third — $300
  • Fourth — $150
  • Fifth — $75

In addition, participants are required to cook a few more pork butts and loins for the People’s Choice portion of the contest. BBQ & Brew attendees will have an opportunity to taste samples from the competitors, and vote for their favorite. The winner of each category will receive $1,500 cash, and another $1,500 to donate to a hunger-relief charity of his or her choice.

Pork is being provided by Des Moines-based Berkwood Farms, a coalition of more than 90 independent family farmers who raise Berkshire pigs. The meat from the heirloom breed has a distinctive color and marbling, two traits that add tenderness, juiciness, and flavor. Other event sponsors include Smokey D’s BBQ in Des Moines, along with Iowa-based Fareway Stores, a grocery company known for its fresh meat counter. Fareway has 140 Midwest locations.

BBQ & Brew will take place in the parking lot of Principal Park, the Iowa Cubs’ home stadium, and barbecue competitors can begin cooking the evening before.

Cost per team is $200, which includes a 20-by-20 cooking site, handwashing and dishwashing stations, two T-shirts, four admission tickets to sample beer, containers to submit food to the judging panel, and barrels for discarding ash.

The deadline is May 15 to claim one of 30 spots. Once sold out, a waiting list will be available. For full contest information and to register, visit iowapork.org/bbq-brew.

Admission tickets for BBQ & Brew will go on sale to the public soon.

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